Rambo Mee Mee
What time is it? It's one hundred o'clock . We're sharks, and in shark time we have things like one hundred o'clock . It's Thomas' idea, Thomas Truehart. Right now he's fat, years from now they'll find a benign tumor in his brain. He is brilliant. Even now we recognize him as brilliant. When they remove the tumor years from now people won't recognize him as brilliant, at least not right away. He will have to talk slowly, very slowly. He won't have fine motor skills. He won't be able to tie his shoe, but he will still be brilliant. He'll work for a police department at the age of fifteen to track down computer scammers. He will no longer be fat.
Toleda Bin Lake , Texas . I remember when they built this dock, when they launched the sail boat and brought it to this property. I remember them placing the oil barrels under the dock to make it float and sleeping in the sailboat before we built the screen room. I remember waking up in the morning and finding crawfish shells sitting on its roof, a raccoon's meal. They get into your garbage cans if you're not careful.
We're all sharks. It's one hundred o'clock . We are out of the water, out of our element. I am the youngest shark. Thomas is the oldest, then Brian, then Shane. The dock dips down when we dive, especially when the fat kid jumps. None of us wants to jump first. There are alligators in these waters. When we finally jump in there are no longer alligators, but that first jump is the bitch of the bunch. Someone gets thrown in. The rest follow. The water is warm on the surface. If you dive deeper it gets cooler. We have yellow lifebelts on. We cannot dive very deep. My grandmother sits on the swing under the pine trees.
My grandmother. We call her Mee Mee. One can assume this is a child's term for Mama. Mee Mee, crippled by rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands are nubs, her fingers slanted and pointed sideways. She rides a motored wheelchair, a scooter. She and I are the most susceptible to red bugs. They burrow into our skin to create itchy bumps. They cover our bodies whenever we visit Toledo Bin. Everywhere. Arms, legs, stomach, penis. Years later I'll still carry the scars where my fingernails tore them away. I am her favorite. My cousins will later despise me for this.
Under the water we can hear the motor. The boat comes into the cove. They are young, college kids maybe. Maybe they're white trash. White trash with a ski boat pulling a guy on a wake board. We scream, we think they can't hear us. Bad words. "You suck!" Thomas screams. I will guess at the words. I will stick words in people's mouths. Thomas might not be saying, "You suck!" but it is something bad. We go along with it. "Yeah, you suck!" we say. "You assholes!" we say. "You bunch of idiots!"
They keep going. They circle the cove, coming around, towards us. A pin dot becomes a boat and it turns and the wake board comes near us and sprays us with waves. Cool.
Mee Mee does not consider this cool. She rides down in her scooter. She has seen the wake boarder and how close he came to her darlings. We are all her darlings, me especially. She says, "Brian, go get the gun." This sounds colder than it is. She's referring to his beebee gun. I have been envious of his beebee gun for awhile now. It is dark and deadly and with a simple cock it fires into oblivion. In reality it is not deadly, in reality it is not much more than a toy that might leave a little welt on your arm if you're the unlucky bastard found in front of its barrel.
"Cock me that gun," she says and then she is aiming at the boat. She is tracing it, following the boat, aiming, as if her eyes hadn't gone to shit years ago. She fires and I doubt the beebee makes it halfway across the lake. But the boaters have seen the beebee gun. It is apparent they have not realized it's only a beebee gun. It's apparent because they steer right up to the dock and cut the engine.
The kids ask if the gun is loaded. What they don't know, what I wouldn't find out for many years, is this is not the first time Mee Mee held a gun.
In 1950 she owned an apartment by herself. She kept a snub-nose forty-five in her drawer. When she moved in, it was the second thing she dealt with. First: put together her nightstand. Second: even before plugging in the lamp put the gun in the drawer, loaded. Always loaded or what is it worth? There was an intruder. Mee Mee didn't even turn on the lamp. She pulled open the drawer, pointed the gun and warned him and pulled the trigger. Now, I know what you're thinking. "Your grandma killed a man?" This is not the case. She wounded a man. Mee Mee aimed for the knee and hit the knee.
So she doesn't flinch when the college kids get fresh with her. She's had her life or at least her chastity threatened, and what is that in the face of white-trash? She says again, "Brian, cock me that gun." Brian cocks her the gun. One of the kids eyes the gun briefly and then points to the license number on his boat. "You write it down," he says. "You can call the game warden and see what he has to say."
The kids move on. Like a storm, she says, the wake of their motor running into lapping waves that slap against the shore. These waves are their waves goodbye, their waves to a senile old lady with a gun in her lap just waiting for them to enter her cove.
I told you when I started this that I am her favorite. I come upon this fact that evening. I'm sitting on the porch, reading some bad Stephen King novel and Mee Mee comes out with a mug full of hot coco. She's staring out at the lake-doesn't even look at me. I lay the book on my lap, and she finally notices. There's a smile that breaks across her face. Mee Mee reaches out to ruffle my chia-pet hair.
"Darling (a name she'll call me even ten years later)," she says (this is important so I put it in quotes). "Put down that book. It's near sunset. Watch the water." It's like it was when we used to stay in the sail boat. There is something different at the lake. There is something different at Toledo Bin, something different with the memories I have there that blends the woods together. There's something different for my grandmother, too. My cousin Brian now calls her Rambo Mee Mee in light of today's events. She listens to her new name and laughs her laugh. The Rambo Mee Mee laugh I'll always associate with my own ignorance. She says, "There.look at that lake."
And when she leaves, that shitty book feels so heavy I can't pick it up. So I stare out at the lake like she told me. It's beautiful, but it's open. It's forty years old. It's a man-made lake. Before it there was only the Sabine river . Before it there was no dam. Before it there were no myths of giant catfish growing in its depths. Yes, that's part of why it's beautiful. Anyone, anything can go out on that lake or lurk below it. Good, bad folk, but you can't be scared. Everyone's got to go to the lake, has to live, because if you don't swim, you'll drown.
I pick up my (shitty) book, walk up to the lake and toss it in.
There is pride in this instance.
But pride, oh pride-you're a fucking sin.
Simon Owens has sold short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry to over thirty magazines and anthologies, including Irregular Quarterly and Pine Magazine.